Posts Tagged ‘Arnulfo Mendoza Ruíz’

It’s been one year since the passing of maestro Arnulfo Mendoza Ruíz.

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth

Tejedor de los sueños by Charles Barth (alas, with reflections from other pieces)

To honor his life, an exhibit of works by his friends, colleagues, and family was inaugurated at La Mano Mágica on March 13, 2015.

ManoMagica exhibit

His older son, Gabriel Mendoza Gagnier, curated this amazing collection of paintings, weaving, and artesanía.

Assisted by Arnulfo’s companion, Yukiko, the opening featured, not only amazing art, but also mezcal, tamales, and surprise entertainment by Carnaval dancers from San Martín Tilcajete, wearing masks carved by some of the well-known carvers from the village, including Inocenio Vásquez and Jésus Sosa Calvo.

Jésus Sosa Calvo had carved the signature entry sign for La Mano Mágica and recently, unasked, came by to freshen up the paint that had faded over the years under the intense Oaxaca sun.


While, in the words of Manuel Matus Manzo,  Arnulfo Mendoza may have gone on “to meet the Jaguar and the god Murcielago,” the dreams of his magical hands remain.

Finally, this beautiful poem by Alberto Blanco from the exhibit’s catalog…

Mitades a Arnulfo

La mitad de la tierra
no sueña con la luna.
La mitad de la luna
no sueña con el sol.

Si la luna es la trama,
y si el sol es la urdimbre,
esa tierra es la tela
donde acaso se vive.

La vida es la comedia
ya la muerte es el drama,
pero el textil de siempre
es la urdimbre y la trama.

La mitad de la vida,
la mitad de la muerte:
una tela tejida
con un hilo de suerte.


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Blog post as catharsis…

Saturday was a sad day in Oaxaca.  It brought the completely unexpected death of one of Oaxaca’s most talented artists, Arnulfo Mendoza Ruiz.  He was only 59.  I knew him a little, peripherally through my blogger buddy, Chris, who has known him and his large Zapotec family in Teotitlán del Valle (his sisters are well-known chefs) for many years and with whom he had been collaborating on a project.  Arnulfo had a well-known store and workshop called La Mano Mágica on the walking street here in Oaxaca, which showcased, not only his artistry (paintings, exquisite weavings, metal work, and more), but also the cream of Oaxaca’s artesanía and artist community.  We would occasionally stop by or he would hail us from the doorway — always with twinkling eyes, mischievous smile, and well-worn fedora atop his head.

Black bow above closed doors of La Mano Mágica

Today, the doors are closed.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, ritual and tradition play central roles in all aspects of Zapotec culture and it was amazing to watch it being expressed on Saturday.  Arnulfo died in the morning and by the early afternoon, friends, family, and many of the major artists in Oaxaca, were gathered in La Mano Mágica.  At one point, there was mournful chanting by several men in the gallery where his casket lay, later a band played, people came and went in the main workshop room, and in the room behind, his sisters prepared and served chicken covered in black mole, rice, tortillas, and atole.  The women busied themselves with the ritual of preparing and offering food, but allowed the tears to well up when condolences were given.  However, the men in the family sat or stood in clusters in the other two rooms, and remained stoic.

Mourners in church plaza, El Picacho in background

Under the embrace of El Picacho

According to belief, the funeral was held the next day.  As we drove out to Teotitlán del Valle on Sunday, the winter sky’s usual puffy white clouds had turned dark and gray and a few tear drops fell from the heavens.  There is a tradition of dimming the lights on Broadway to honor the death of a prominent member of the theatrical community.  And, yesterday, it felt like Mother Nature desaturated the color of Oaxaca a little in honor of Arnulfo Mendoza Ruiz.

Casket being carried into church

Led by the solemn sounds of a band, pallbearers carried the casket from his home high atop a hill in Teotitlán del Valle, down the steep and winding cobblestone streets, to Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo where a mass was celebrated.  And then, all processed to the cemetery.  The anguished sobs, as his body was lowered into the earth, were heart-wrenching.  Like laughter, I think grief is contagious, as it reaches into our heart, takes hold, and shakes the continuum of feeling in each of us.  And so, tears welled-up in my eyes.

Floral wreath with ribbon reading, "Descansa Arnulfo"

Rest in peace, Arnulfo

Today, I continue to feel drained and very sad.  I didn’t know Arnulfo well, but feel humbled by the fragility of physical life.  I keep reflecting on how each of us tries to bring meaning to this temporal physical existence.  Arnulfo was a flawed man and was chased by demons, but in his creativity and nurturing of the arts, he left the world a little better than he found it.

Chris’s farewell blog posts to his friend are especially touching:   A sad day – Arnulfo Mendoza (1954-2014) and Another sad day – Arnulfo Mendoza (1954-2014).

And, here are two online obituaries (in Spanish):  Adiós a Arnulfo Mendoza and Oaxaca de luto por la muerte de Arnulfo Mendoza.

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